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Bush Tucker Articles

(Billardiera species)

Billardiera belong to the Family Pittosporaceae, and are a genus of climbing plants limited to Australia. They were named after Jacques de Labillardiere a French botanist who visited Australia.

Billardiera cymosa

Common Name: Sweet Apple berry
Normal Distribution: SA and Vic.

The sweet apple berry is a small, wiry, light climbing plant with narrow to oblong pointed leaves and attractive cream to pink, to mauve to bluish-white tubular flowers with flared tips borne in clusters. The fruits are green to blackish, sometimes reddish, and when mature are known to be edible. As a bush food species it is gaining popularity, and as a native species is quite easy to propagate. It has an aniseed-like flavour, although over-ripe fruit are said to be sweet. Indigenous people made use of this bush tucker once the fruit were ripe and had fallen to the ground.

The plant requires a host to climb and twine through, although grows well on a trellis. It prefers well drained soils, and is quite hardy surviving anywhere from 300mm to 850mm rainfall.

As a bush food crop the quantity of fruits produced are minuscule. However it is an adaptable plant, which benefits from light applications of slow release fertiliser and drip irrigation during drier periods.

Billardiera scandens

Common Names: Appleberry, Apple Dumpling, Apple Dumpling Plant, Potato Apple, and Tasmanian Blueberry
Normal distribution: eastern and south-eastern Australia from Queensland to Tasmania.

This appleberry is also a slender, twining creeper, found naturally in moist eucalypt forests and heaths. It is quite a hardy plant and grows well in full sun and on well drained soils. It has toothed or wavy edged, furry, sometimes silky, yellow-green leaves which tend to tum purple with age. The pendulous, tubular to bell-shaped flowers are creamy to yellow-green and sometimes purple. The fruits are small, yellow to olive-green berries, although may be purple to red in colour when ripe.

It has numerous small seeds embedded in its sweet edible pulp.

As a bush food crop it grows well on trellises, or as a matted ground cover. The mature fruit are juicy, and have a flavour similar to stewed apples hence its name by the early settlers as the apple dumpling berry. The fleshy fruits weigh about 2 grams each and like the sweet apple berry the quantity produced is small. Over-ripe fruit are sweet tasting. Indigenous use of the plant as bush tucker was generally once the fruits were ripe and had dropped to the ground.

Seed and cuttings are often difficult to establish, however once germinated will grow rapidly, and may produce fruit in the first year. Honeyeaters and other birds will be attracted to the tubular flowers.

As a bush food, the appleberry can be added to fresh fruit salads and can be used in pies and yeast bakery products. Their flavour is enhanced in pies when used with apples.

Billardiera longiflora

Common Name: Purple berry or climbing blue berry.
Distribution: NSW, Vic, Tas.

It is also a slender, twining creeper which thrives in semi-shade and cooler and moister areas. It has narrow dark green leaves and pale green tubular flowers, and oval shaped shiny purple berries which hang like drupels from the twiggy stems.

This is a little harder to propagate as seeds may not germinate for many months, however it does strike well from cuttings. It is also used as a bush food but is not as yet as popular as the sweet appleberry.

References:

Australian Bush Products (1997) Climbers and Creepers species list and aeneral information. ABP.
Bonney,N.(1997) Economic Native Trees and Shrubs for South Australia. GASA.
Cribb,AB & JW. (1974) Wild Food in Australia. Collins.
Isaacs, J. (1991) BushFood. Ure Smith..
Smith, K. & I. (1991) Grow Your Own Bushfoods. New Holland Publishers.

(Reprinted from Rockhampton Branch Newsletter, June 2000)